Manchester United were thoroughly outfought and overwhelmed on their visit to St James’ Park and luckily for them, the scoreline on Saturday read only 1-0 to Newcastle United at the full-time whistle.
The score did not reflect the the Magpies’ domination from the first whistle as they swarmed all over Erik ten Hag’s side who were just not at the races in the key Premier League clash.
The entire season has shown United take one step forward and two steps back and it was similar against Eddie Howe’s side.
Most of these players have let down three separate managers and fans know they cannot be trusted. A wholesale change is required once Sir Jim Ratcliffe comes in and takes control of sporting matters.
Players letting yet another manager down
Most of these players play like their life depends on it only when their contracts are up for renewal. Then they go back to being their moody, selfish selves.
Matchday fans will continue to back the manager over this poor squad full of weak-willed but overpaid stars but the Dutchman cannot be absolved of blame either.
In his first season, the former Ajax coach was smart — sticking to what he felt the team was good at and trying to build a winning structure around it.
With Casemiro in form, Marcus Rashford scoring for fun and Lisandro Martinez’s no-nonsense defending, United’s approach of sitting deep and countering whenever possible worked a treat, especially in the home games.
Then Ten Hag slowly started getting arrogant and brought players he felt would allow the team to be even more front-footed and start pressing from the front in a bid to start attacks higher up the pitch.
He announced during pre-season that United wanted to be the best in the world at transitions and that they would attack from the front.
Mason Mount, Andre Onana, and Rasmus Hojlund were supposed to revolutionise the team’s style but all they have done is take the club a step back.
The manager began believing in his own hype and asked his players to press aggressively, and that allowed the opposition to run rings around them, especially in the early part of the current season.
ETH’s new expansive style not working
Even though they escaped with a win in the season opener against Wolverhampton Wanderers, it was clear for all to see that the team was simply not ready to play in such an expansive way.
The Brazilian midfield enforcer has lost a yard of pace while the Argentine World Cup winner suffered an injury that ruled him out for half the season. The less said about the Mancunian the better.
Mount’s signing has not clicked as Ten Hag is yet to find his ideal midfield combination. Hojlund is too raw for the Premier League and that is showing as he has yet to open his account in England.
Once results began deteriorating, Ten Hag tried once again to play it safe but by then injuries had mounted and he was left with a threadbare squad.
He was forced to trust players who were close to being sold in the summer — Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay — and while they have proven to be effective, the manager’s gameplan nullifies their strengths and it is painful to watch currently.
Ten Hag is showing no signs of being brave, sticking to Onana despite his obvious errors almost every week while sticking with the Scot just because he is scoring goals.
Against Newcastle, McTominay and Bruno Fernandes occupied almost the same areas and it seemed there was no coaching ahead of the game.
The same happened in the early part of the season as well which left Casemiro isolated. The young Kobbie Mainoo was left with all to do on Saturday.
Knowing United’s dismal away from against the top eight sides, Ten Hag should have played Sofyan Amrabat and Mainoo but it seems he is just not ready to learn his lessons.
ETH continuing same mistakes
Playing Rashford and Anthony Martial in an away game, considering the attitude they are currently showing is a crime. But it seems Ten Hag is asking to be sacked.
The other thing the Dutch boss was effective in his first season was with his man-management skills. He ruthlessly quashed rebellion in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo while reinvigorating the careers of many and changing the course of games through timely substitutions.
Currently, he is having a mini-fall-out with almost all players while none of his substitutes are having any impact as he keeps delaying them, hoping for a different outcome each time.
The team is currently hanging on by a thread in the Champions League and are struggling to qualify for Europe, leave aside the Champions League, domestically.
They need to win against the mighty Bayern Munich next week before facing a daunting away trip to Anfield. A scary week for Ten Hag indeed!
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is expected to change the club’s transfer stance and bring in new people behind the scenes. Whether that will impede the Dutchman remains to be seen. So far, Ten Hag’s transfer policy has been full of misses and very few hits.
His goodwill is running out and the new sporting team might need to find yet another new man for the hot seat at Old Trafford. These players have let down yet another manager but Ten Hag is certainly not without blame.